Should I go to the emergency room for food poisoning?

Should I go to the emergency room for food poisoning?

According to CDC estimates, 1 in 6 Americans become ill from foodborne illness every year. Foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, can be extremely unpleasant. Symptoms can come on suddenly and be debilitating. However, most cases of food poisoning are not serious and get better without medical treatment.

What are the symptoms of food poisoning?

Symptoms of food poisoning often start within hours after consuming contaminated food or water. However, in some cases they occur days or even weeks later. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea, sometimes bloody
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abdominal (belly) cramping and pain

What are the causes of food poisoning?

Foodborne illness is caused by eating contaminated food or water. Items can be contaminated at any point in the harvesting, production, or preparation process. You can contract food poisoning from a restaurant or food prepared in your own or someone else’s home. Raw produce, such as salads, presents a greater risk than cooked foods, because the heat from cooking destroys some organisms. Organisms that cause food poisoning include:

  • Bacteria (such as salmonella and E. coli)
  • Parasites (such as cryptosporidium)
  • Viruses (like norovirus)

How can you treat food poisoning at home?

Symptoms usually resolve within 2 days. Follow these steps to manage your symptoms at home:

  • Stop eating and drinking normally for several hours
  • Suck on ice chips or take small sips of water to stay hydrated

You might also try non-caffeinated clear sodas, sports drinks, or pediatric electrolyte solutions

  • Rest: Foodborne illness and dehydration can cause significant fatigue
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, dairy products, nicotine, and spicy foods
  • As you begin to feel better, resume normal consumption patterns gradually, starting with “bland” foods such as broth, crackers, or rice

Give your body a chance to recover and reset

When should you seek emergency or urgent care for food poisoning?

You should seek emergency or urgent care if:

  • You have a fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • You have blood in your diarrhea or vomit
  • You are having difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • You are experiencing blurred vision or other neurological symptoms (e.g. confusion, numbness/tingling in arms or legs, weakness on one side, speech problems)
  • You have had consistent vomiting or diarrhea for 3 days or more
  • You are severely dehydrated

(You have dry mouth, infrequent urination, light-headedness or extreme weakness)

  • You are pregnant, elderly, under 5 years old, or have a chronic disease like diabetes or congestive heart failure

How will your ER or urgent care clinician treat food poisoning?

Depending on the length and severity of your symptoms and the findings of a physical exam, your provider may:

  • Administer IV fluids: This is necessary in cases of severe dehydration
  • Prescribe antibiotics or another medication: This is only done when the source of the illness is known to be bacterial, like listeria, or parasitic, like cryptosporidium.

How can you prevent food poisoning?

Take the following precautions to avoid food borne illness:

  • Wash all produce thoroughly
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked meat or poultry
  • Cook foods to the correct internal temperature (use a food thermometer)
  • Wash hands and disinfect surfaces that have come in contact with raw meat or poultry
  • Do not eat raw or lightly cooked eggs
  • Do not eat raw sprouts
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot
  • Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking
  • Only eat foods prepared by those who follow food safety guidelines

Fast, smart help from Pivotal Health for food poisoning

If you’re ill with suspected food poisoning, connect with Pivotal Health to discuss your potential treatment options based on your symptoms. Our experienced triage support and clinicians will help you determine if you need emergency care or can be seen in the comfort of your home, on your own schedule, by a licensed Pivotal Health provider.

Pivotal Health clinicians can assess your illness, administer IV fluids, prescribe medications, and create a treatment plan for you. All Pivotal Health clinician visits, including for food poisoning, include follow-up consultation to ensure you’re on the road to recovery. 



More Health-Related Posts from Pivotal Health

Addressing Adult Anxiety

Addressing Adult Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent behavioral health concern in the United States, affecting around 20% of the adult population. What are anxiety disorders?Everyone feels anxious sometimes; anxiety is a normal reaction in many situations. However, if feelings of...

read more
Exercising After COVID-19

Exercising After COVID-19

Exercising After Covid-19: Facts, Statistics, and Tips Returning to your exercise routine after recovering from Covid-19 has many physical and mental health benefits, but it’s important to start back slowly. Depending on the severity of your illness and your fitness...

read more
RSV in Infants & Children

RSV in Infants & Children

Know the Signs of RSV in Your Child In the last month, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases have been rising in Wisconsin and continue to grow. RSV can be especially dangerous for some infants and young children with an estimated 58,000 children under the age of 5...

read more
Get the COVID-19 Booster and Flu Vaccine at Home

Get the COVID-19 Booster and Flu Vaccine at Home

Skip the pharmacy, get vaccinated at home Staying up to date on your vaccines is the best way to prevent serious illnesses and protect yourself and your loved ones from preventable diseases. Going to the pharmacy or clinic to get your vaccinations can be a hassle from...

read more
Treating Coronavirus (COVID-19) At Home

Treating Coronavirus (COVID-19) At Home

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus known as SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It mainly spreads via air droplets from coughing, sneezing, and breathing. Many people have mild symptoms and can manage their symptoms...

read more
Dealing with Adult Depression

Dealing with Adult Depression

Depression affects around 7% of American adults each year and some studies show that number is increasing. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says about 21 million U.S. adults (8.4% of the population) had at least one major depressive episode in 2020....

read more
Diagnosing & Treating Strep Throat

Diagnosing & Treating Strep Throat

Sore throat is a common complaint, especially during cold and flu season. Most sore throats are caused by viruses and go away on their own after a few days. Strep throat, however, is a bacterial infection and can become serious if left untreated. What is strep throat?...

read more
8 Self-Care Tips To Improve Mental Health

8 Self-Care Tips To Improve Mental Health

Psychiatric symptoms are a call for transformation. If your mental health is suffering, it’s a demand for change. Your answers might come in small, simple steps, like needing vitamins, or maybe your body is crying out for nourishment. These changes can help even if...

read more
Flu Season Is Here

Flu Season Is Here

What is influenza? Influenza, or ‘the flu’, is a viral respiratory illness that infects your nose, throat, and sometimes lungs. It is a common misconception that the flu causes vomiting and diarrhea. While these symptoms are sometimes present, especially with...

read more

Pivotal Health at a Glance


Get care from the comfort of your home

Easy to Use

Schedule an appointment easily from your phone



Know exactly what you’ll pay out of pocket

High Quality

Get treatment and follow-ups from licensed clinicians

Ready to try convenient in-home urgent care?


Our mission is to deliver high-quality healthcare to consumers when and where they need it. Pivotal Health’s passionate and seasoned team has developed a scalable, technology-enabled platform to make healthcare more consumer friendly and easier to navigate.

Proudly delivering urgent and primary care services to patients in the Greater Madison, WI Area with more locations coming soon. 

© Copyright 2022 - Pivotal Health. All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy | SMS Terms of Service